In 2007, while the photography world was still grappling with the idea of photography as an interpretive, non-narrative, non-representational medium, writer Lucy Soutter wrote about the “crooked” expressive versus the “straight” documentary photograph, insightfully characterising the then two sides of the debate.
Since then photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of the “crooked” image through hybrid forms and visual practises and no longer worries about narrative versus abstraction, expressive versus objective. The new generation of photographic artists rush towards the new, embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it.
It is such new approaches to photography that FORMAT19: FOREVER//NOW will address during the festival.
Forever is an idea built into the very nature of the photograph that records the moment and immediately presents us with a visual memory of the past. Forever touches upon our obsession to record and share the continuous moments of our lives. Yet forever is an illusion and the immortality photography proffers can quickly sour when digital anonymity becomes virtually impossible to obtain. The eruption of selfies and Instagram is contradicted by campaigns around the right to be forgotten or opt out.
Nowis the new photography orthodoxy, in which the message is all, the product of an era that is seen as “post truth”, regardless of whether it is a fictionalised story or a factual narrative or an aesthetic mixture of the two. The challenge for the photographer is how to establish their message in the now and stop it being transitory.
In this era of Trump’s fake news, where truths, lies and myths are easily interchanged, we need to find a new structure to realign our perception of reality and provide a frame of reference for identifying where the truth really resides.
FORMAT19 will look at how photography is evolving and moving ever forward, while keeping a curatorial eye on its past and how it is being constantly reinterpreted.
The lead festival exhibition, entitled Mutable/Multiple, features the work of Max Pinckers; Stefanie Moshammer; Amani Willett; Anne Golaz; Virginie Rebetez and Edgar Martins. Co- curated by Louise Fedotov-Clements and Tim Clark, the exhibition encourages a further re- evaluation of the photographic narrative form.
Each of the artists employ both fact and fiction as they weave their stories using archive images, press materials, literature, interviews and staged photography.
The FORMAT19 Open Call received 657 entries of over 10,000 images from 47 countries across 5 continents. The international panel of judges were very impressed by the standard of submissions and recommended 54 projects to be exhibited.
The successful entries will be exhibited in venues across Derby and Nottingham. Reflecting the theme of the festival, FOREVER//NOW, the exhibitions range from considering the slippage between fact and fiction in our manipulated media world; looking at concerns around identity and gender politics in the #metoo era; highlighting the survival of isolated communities existing on the outside of mainstream society; to responses to Brexit and shifting political landscapes and the effect such changes have on individuals.
FORMAT19 is delighted to be hosting the premiere of SIXTEEN, a multimedia project that asks what it is like to be sixteen years old in today’s Britain. Project director Craig Easton, editorial director Anne Braybon and creative producer Liz Wewiora have worked with sixteen photographers who have travelled across the UK making a series of visual vox pops.
The collective narrative of this project gives prominence to voices rarely heard and tells of the hopes and fears, and who or what, sustains this group of young people, as they transition into adulthood.
In partnership with the Derby Museum and Art Gallery and the V&A, FORMAT19 will present White Heat of British Industry, 1950s-60s: Photographs by Maurice Broomfield, curated by Martin Barnes, V&A Senior Curator of Photographs, as part of the festival programme.
The annual FORMAT19 Portfolio Review, with over 50+ international photography professionals, the UK’s largest gathering of experts, offering help and advice to photographers.
FORMAT is directed by Louise Fedotov-Clements and organised by QUAD and the Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre of the University of Derby.